Ordering online is no stranger to most of us. In fact, we utilize couriers to deliver packages and gifts to the ones we love. One example is the Balikbayan boxes from our overseas Filipino relatives, which have long been a part of Filipino culture. However, with the rise of online shopping platforms such as Shopee and Lazada, the convenience of ordering online has evolved from a means of delivering goods conveniently, to an alluring addiction; more so contributing to pollution.
Online shopping has been one of the new normal practices adopted by Filipinos since the spike of the pandemic. You don’t even have to plan what to buy, unlike brick-and-mortar stores. Online shopping also provides a wider selection of products for customers to choose from since sellers have limitless shelves and inventory. Information such as manufacturing date and product quality is also stated in the product description, unlike traditional stores.
The Diderot Effect
More people are joining the trend, some of which are purchasing things that they don’t even need. This is what experts refer to as the Diderot Effect, wherein there is a constant cycle of obtaining new possessions creating a spiral of consumption. The more people that order online, the more inventories that go through the market, which means that more packaging is used in every delivery. Not to mention that certain users have multiple orders on a daily basis.
It’s Not Organic, It's Plastic
The Philippines was ranked as the third-largest contributor of plastic waste worldwide, an average of 2.7 million metric tons of ocean plastic each year. In light of online shopping, shipping packages use single-use plastics that cannot be recycled and take a thousand years to dissolve into bits of microplastics that still contribute to the distribution of toxins to bodies of water. Shipping of parcels also requires transport which contributes to air pollution due to its addition to traffic congestion that leads to higher carbon emissions.
In June of 2022 alone, an average of over 2 million orders per day have been recorded for Shopee, and with more people clicking the “add to cart” button, more plastics are produced. Behind the promise of convenience, is a threat to the ecosystem that we continue to plague with our waste and horrid actions.
Parallel to the proliferation of online shopping commerce, the challenge to reduce our contribution to pollution continues to increase. The supply and demand chain for online shopping grows profoundly as years progress but this does not mean that companies should overlook the fact that their current practices are harming the environment. Policies and regulations for solid waste disposal and the use of single-use plastics must be enforced properly.
The same advice goes to the government for them to oversee the adverse impact of parcel wastes produced from e-commerce.
Lastly, a question to ponder for people who are into online shopping: Would you choose convenience over principle?